We chatted to Bryan Hill on the 10th Anniversary of The Teatro.
by Louw Mulder
In 2013, I had the privilege to have a one-on-one chat with Bryan Hill, General Manager of the Teatro at Montecasino. Bryan told me then: “We have to constantly raise the bar higher to maintain the standards we have set for ourselves.” I think, that this was done with distinction.
Having a chat with Bryan now, almost 5 years later, the passion and love for the theatre is still as evident as when I just met him. Bryan completely bought into the vision of not only Montecasino and Tsogo Sun, but also the Teatro. “The vision of the Teatro is to provide a broad-based appealed entertainment, from Jazz, to Rock and Roll” he said: “We constantly try to offer new things, and not the same type of shows all the time.”
This is evident if you recall memories of all the shows that have been brought to the Teatro’s stage. There have been International shows like Mamma Mia, Lord of the Dance, Blue Man Group, to even superstars like Annie Lenox, Ronan Keating, but most worthy of mentioning, was the world class South African productions like Jesus Christ Superstar, Singin’ in the Rain, Hairspray, and Chicago, to name but a few. “The biggest success story was when Trevor Noah had a sold out show that ran for five weeks. The only artist to have ever done that on the Teatro’s stage.
The Teatro is located in a prime spot, located within Montecasino, Fourways, South Africa. “We always positioned ourselves as a one-stop destination that offers something for everybody. There are restaurants, events at the outdoor events area, Bok Town, and also the Casino and the theatres,” I was told. “People are not coming to Montecasino to only gamble, or only coming to see a show, because the offerings weave into each other. It is key to work with the rest of the property to combine efforts, so that we constantly ensure there is something happening all the time.”
After a decade, the Teatro is going strong, still maintaining an average occupancy rate of 80% per year, and this may mainly be as a result of their approach to ensure uniqueness, and a broad-based appeal. As Bryan confirmed, the Teatro has become known for the quality of their shows, as well as the uniqueness of the type of shows it stages.
Even with all the international acts hosted by the Teatro, it is no secret that the Teatro is a huge supporter of the South African Theatre industry. When asked, Bryan named his Top 3 productions at the Teatro as Jersey Boys, Phantom of the Opera and The Lion King, all three local South African Productions. As Bryan continues: “Our locally produced productions are internationally recognised brands of hit musicals. Sometimes they may start in South Africa, but other parts of the world also get to see it.”
Going back 10 years, Bryan tells how Pieter Toerien came to Tsogo Sun with his incredible vision and convinced Tsogo Sun to make a R100 million investment to build the Teatro. “Did anyone know it’s going to take off the way it did? Absolutely not.” Says Bryan. “Did anybody know that we would be exporting two to three shows a year into Asia? Absolutely not. South Africa is now recognised as a viable alternative for a touring company, because South Africa produces an A-grade product.”
The success of the Teatro can to a large extend be ascribed to Bryan’s extensive knowledge about, and passion for, the Theatre industry. He told tales of the good times, but also mentioned the disappointing times, like when one of his most favourite productions, Dreamgirls, did not perform as well as he would have liked. “It was a beautiful production, but we had misjudged its appeal to our target market” he explains: “We say no to a lot of shows approaching us, and the reason is purely because our entertainment factor must be high enough to consider a production. It has to have appeal to our local market.”
After an hour of one of the most interesting conversations about the industry, Bryan confirmed that there is a lot of exciting stuff lined up for the Teatro’s stage over the next few years. “Again, it will be a mix of the old and the new. The genre of shows that we do are not defined by one type and we constantly try to have a broad base appeal to our audience.”
Judging by the success of the Teatro after their first decade of quality shows, it is almost guaranteed that the best is still to come. From all of us at Stage and Screen, Happy Birthday, and thank you for the hours and hours of spectacular moments.
Here is to the next 10!